Skip to main content

Full text of "Alaskan glacier studies of the National Geographic Society in the Yakutat Bay, Prince William Sound and lower Copper River regions"

See other formats

240                                 ALASKAN GLACIER STUDIES
We are inclined to think, therefore, that although Valdez Glacier is now receding from a fairly recent, more advanced position, the evidence is not conclusive that the advance was so recent as suggested by Davidson's interpretation of Whidbey's observations in 1794.
There is a rumor that the Russians went into the Copper River valley from the head of Port Valdez, but it is not known when, nor whether they went over the Valdez Glacier, nor what conditions they encountered.
Petroff stated l in a report written in 1882, that "in Port Valdez, at the northern extremity of the sound, a glacier exists with a face 15 miles in length at the sea shore, while its downward track can be traced almost to the summit of the Alps. Huge icebergs drop off its face with a thundering noise almost continually and drift out to sea, and the whole extensive bay is covered with small fragments, making it inaccessible to even boat navigation, and consequently a safe retreat for seals, which sport here in thousands. Port Fidalgo in the east and Port Wells in the west also have tremendous glaciers."
The presence of a glacier "fifteen miles in length at the sea shore "is manifestly impossible in Port Valdez fiord which could not have held such a glacier, even if Valdez and Shoup Glaciers had then coalesced; nor could such a large glacier have existed anywhere in Prince William Sound, for the expansion and union of Valdez, Shoup, and Columbia Glaciers would result in a united ice front of only ten miles. Vegetation and human records prove that no such expansion could have occurred between 1794 and sometime between 1868 and 1882, the dates between which any possible Russian observation to which Petroff might have had access must have been made. The dimensions are evidently an error, possibly of printing or of translation, for? Petroff knew the Russian records as well as any man.
He specifically mentions the Port Wells glaciers to the west, which are still tidal, and glaciers in Port Fidalgo on the eastern side of Prince William Sound, where no glaciers are now known, but does not mention the great Columbia Glacier, the largest ice tongue of the whole region. We think it probable that the Columbia Glacier reached tidewater in the period mentioned, as it does now, and axe, therefore, inclined to believe that the Columbia Glacier is referred to in the sentences quoted from Petroff.
In September, 1884, Lieut. W. R. Abercrombie of the U. S. Army entered Port Valdez and ascended one of the glaciers to a point where he could see a lake beyond.1 It is not evident whether this was the Corbin Glacier or some other ice tongue that was then more extensive than now. It can hardly have been the Valdez Glacier and Klutena Lakefc for the direction is wrong and the distance too great. The ice pass sought was one formerly (1850-60) used by the Copper River natives on their way to Prince William Sound. It may have been one leading to Woodworth Glacier in the Tasnuna Valley, though the distance is rather great and there is now no lake. It was not Marshall Pass, which has no glacier. Allen's map made in 1885, perhaps from Abercrombie's data, shows this route with the glacier and lake,' but not on a large enough scale for
i Petroff, Ivan, Population, Industries and Resources of Alaska, Tenth Census of the United States, 1880, Vol. VIE, 1884, p. 27.
ĞAbercrombie, W. R., Supplementary Expedition into the Copper River Valley, Alaska, In Narratives of Explorations in Alaska, Washington, 1900, pp. 391-2; Amer. Geol., Vol. XXIV, 1899, pp. 849-854.
> Allen, H. T., An Expedition to the Copper, Tanana, and Koyukuk Rivers, Senate Ex. Doc. 125, 49th Congress, 2nd Session, Washington, 1887, Map 2.